Strike three has been called on the 2020 American Legion baseball season in Missouri.
Missouri American Legion Baseball Chairman Gary Stone sent the bad news to programs around the state Thursday.
“This decision was very difficult to make,” Stone wrote, “and I am sure, just like with everything involving this pandemic, it will be cussed, discussed, and second-guessed to infinity and beyond. Bottom line, it is just the right thing to do.”
Area Legion managers and coaches were still digesting the information late Thursday morning.
Washington Post 218’s Kent Getsee said his program will continue this summer with three planned teams with tryouts scheduled for May 8 and May 9.
“I think our coaching staff feels a bigger obligation here this year than any,” Getsee said. “We are hoping this is part of the healing of our city and to bring some joy. This will not be easy and it will not be business as usual, but we’re hoping to enjoy it and have fun doing it. Post 218 has a rich history in having great families and we’re hoping to see them all as soon as we can as safely as we can.”
The teams will retain the Post 218 name without any Legion patches, conforming to the Legion’s rules.
Jeff Reed of Pacific Post 320 said he’s studying options.
“We have talked about playing against other high schools around the area, but don’t think that could start until at least June,” Reed said.
“It’s unfortunate that the baseball season has been canceled, but that seems to be the norm now days,” Union Post 297 Manager Ryan Bailey said. “I wish there was a way to wait a while longer to see if a shortened season later in the summer would work, but it seems like everyone would rather cancel as early as possible rather than wait and see.”
At the time Missouri decided to halt the 2020 season, a total of 40 teams had been registered on the American Legion website. That includes Washington Post 218, New Haven Post 366 and Pacific Post 320 for Senior Legion play. Junior teams registered were Washington Post 218 and New Haven Post 366. Pacific Post 320 had registered a Freshman team.
Other area programs were waiting to hold tryouts to finalize teams.
Stone reported that about 40 percent of the states have called off Legion baseball this summer already. All national and regional events also have been called off.
Until this time, Missouri had been planning on running a season all the way through the state level.
While state government officials are working to reopen the state, the risks associated with restarting baseball were too much for Legion officials.
“The Baseball Committee and the Department Executive Committee have voted to cancel this year’s season due to the risks related to the coronavirus issue,” Stone wrote. “Reasons are the safety and health of players, coaches, fans, and the potential legal liabilities that the Department could incur should someone become ill while participating in a Legion-sanctioned activity.”
Stone also said this year’s state tournament hosts will host the 2021 tournaments, if they choose. Sedalia remains the Senior Legion State Tournament site. Washington was scheduled to host the Junior Legion State Tournament while Ballwin had the Freshman Legion State Tournament.
While American Legion will not be holding baseball, Stone did not rule out the possibility of teams forming their own summer leagues to play.
However, these teams are not allowed to use American Legion emblems or insignia, due to legal reasons.
“Good luck to those who choose to play,” Stone wrote.
Two major factors remain for programs that are looking to play this summer, field rental and insurance.
Fields should be available, although some programs might have to move around to play games. Many parks are reopening as the state moves to slowly return to normal.
Another possibility is that teams end up playing under some form of school identity. MSHSAA announced April 16 that it has relaxed rules on summer contact.
The board of directors also is allowing this year’s seniors to be viewed as enrolled students throughout the summer in relief of bylaw 3.15 for this summer only.
“Hopefully, this will allow schools to play contests against other schools to provide closure and recognition for students and allow teams and kids to play together this summer,” MSHSAA Executive Director Kerwin Urhahn said.
Bailey, who also is Union High School’s head coach, said that’s an option.
“The MSHSAA decision to allow high school teams to play this summer without contact day stipulations is something we’ll definitely look at but we’re a long way off from making a decision on that front,” Bailey said. “Lots of factors must be looked at from the school’s perspective before we move forward.”
Further information will be reported when it’s received.